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The Best Film Soundtracks & Scores Of 2012

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist December 14, 2012 at 2:16PM

We're continuing our best of 2012 coverage by diving into scores and soundtracks that caught our ear over the past twelve months. As anyone who's ever watched one of those YouTube videos where someone puts a video of their favorite Evanescence song over an ill-fitting movie scene, music, whether score or a song, can be crucial to a film's success, or otherwise. And yet all too often, it's reduced to a footnote in the appreciation of a film. And that goes double for when films that don't necessarily work and otherwise have a great score or soundtrack.
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Nobody Walks
Fall On Your Sword -- “Lola Versus”/”Nobody Walks”/"28 Hotel Rooms"
If you’ve been paying attention, you know we’ve been championing Fall On Your Sword -- an offshoot of LCD Soundsystem -- all year long. They have become the go-to indie film composers of late and it’s easy to see why. Led by Will Bates and Philip Mossman, their moody and often effervescent scores have already benefited indies like "Another Earth" and Ry Russo-Young's "You Won't Miss Me." In 2012, they had a banner year writing awesome pieces for Russo-Young’s "Nobody Walks,” “Lola Versus” and “28 Hotel Rooms” that are all distinctively theirs, but also show some range. Twinged with a electronic-hum, but never quite electronic-music per se,  "Lola Versus" has a sweet ebullient vibe, “Nobody Walks” is alternatively dreamy, pulsating and atmospherically romantic like a night swim, and “28 Hotels” is propulsive, heavier and dramatic (which fits the subject matter of two adults weighing the pros and cons of their affair).  For "Nobody Walks," make sure you check out "Opening Titles" and "Kolt" (among many others), "Fireworks" and the more orchestral “Between The Sheets” for "28 Hotel Rooms" (and the entire soundtrack here), and for “Lola Versus” a sampling of all the songs below. Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the soundtrack choices in “Nobody Walks” which include Acrylics, Small Black and Margo Guryan, all of which add to the picture’s dimly-lit, L.A. at sundown vibe with a dash of the dreamy, experimental thread that travels through it as well.

RZA The Man With The Iron Fists
Various Artists - “The Man with the Iron Fists”
Arguably the greatest soundtrack of the year, which had the unfortunate distinction of being attached to one of the lousiest movies of 2012, the tunes on "The Man with the Iron Fists" were considerably more fun and inventive than the movie itself – a beat-heavy, collaboration-intensive ode to old school kung fu and new school hip-hop. Writer/director/member of the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA, must have thought the movie was destined for, at the very least, a kind of awed cult classic status, since he sprinkles dialogue from the movie all throughout the soundtrack (in the style of his mentor and friend, Quentin Tarantino, who "presented" this movie). That somewhat takes away from the experience, but not by much. "The Baddest Man Alive," an absolutely soul-shredding collaboration between RZA and bluesy rock band The Black Keys, which played over the end credits, takes center stage here as the first track and most fun joint. Elsewhere, Kanye West puts in his most compelling song since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with "White Dress," and the reunited Wu-Tang Clan contribute two tracks. Even seemingly lesser tracks like "Tick, Tock," a collaboration between Pusha T, Raekwon, Joell Ortiz and young pup Danny Brown, turns out to be an epic near-classic, with a slightly kung fu string sample slinking through the background. It's also good to be able to turn up the soundtrack really, really loud – in the actual movie the songs were mixed way too low.


The Master
Jonny Greenwood - “The Master”

Like all good scores, it’s impossible to untangle Jonny Greenwood’s compositions from Paul Thomas Anderson’s engrossing, mordantly funny audience tester. From the very first moments of “The Master,” Greenwood’s sinister, stabbing strings atonally throw the viewer off balance, linked with our introduction to Joaquin Phoenix’s diseased Freddie Quell. Greenwood’s music almost is the narrative at first: who is this man, and should we like him? Is he tragic, or is there something sinister lurking beneath the façade. Several of the film's queasier moments are scored with these borderline-nauseating, atonal musical moments, obscuring our naked sympathies to create a dissonant effect. Others, usually serving as an intro point to Lancaster Dodd’s The Cause are achingly melodic, grand in an Old Hollywood sense, pieces with bombastic orchestration that slowly start to come apart as we get a closer look at Anderson’s world of Dodd’s backroom cult. Special mention, too, to some immaculate song cuts, including Ella Fitzgerald's marvelous "Get Thee Behind Me Satan."



Moonrise Kingdom Jared Gilman Kara Hayward
Various Artists - "Moonrise Kingdom"

Appropriately for a film that saw Wes Anderson do things a little differently, "Moonrise Kingdom" found the director and regular music supervisor Randall Poster take a very different approach from their eariler films. OK, so there's a little "Darjeeling Limited"-style French pop from Francoise Hardy, and Hank Williams, who featured on the "Fantastic Mr Fox" OST, returns with multiple cuts. But for the most part, Anderson and Poster leave behind their usual go-tos like The Kinks and The Rolling Stones (indeed, there's no sign of any British Invasion pop anywhere) in the shape of a classical-leaning selection mostly using songs by Benjamin Britten and Leonard Bernstein. Given that they're often picks from the works by the two early 20th-century composers aimed at children -- Bernstein's "The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra" and "La Carnaval des Animaux," and Britten's "Midsummer's NIght Dream" and "Noye's Fludde" -- it's a perfect match for a film that's so much about the freedom and possibilities of childhood, one which qualifies almost as Anderson's first film for kids. It might not enthrall the Instagram crowd, but we can't imagine the film any other way, particularly when it comes to the wonderful credits over the coda, when young star Jared Gilman "covers" Bernstein's "Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra." And Alexandre Desplat's score (a suite known as "The Heroic Weather Conditions Of The Universe") while brief, fits in perfectly too.




Perks Of Being A Wallflower Emma Watson Logan Lerman
Various Artists - “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

The adventure of discovering music is a bit of a quaint and nostalgic notion these days. With Spotify and countless Internet and satellite stations catering to more niches than we knew existed, finding new tunes is never more than a couple of clicks away, with endless music blogs to keep you supplied with suggestions. But back in the old days, your musical taste was usually first shaped through whatever your parents or siblings listened to, but as you got older and made new friends, mixtapes (or mix CDs) were like codes of communication written in song. Of the many details of teenage life the underrated “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (why this wasn’t rolled out wider or promoted harder is baffling) gets right, it’s how music is traded, shared and coveted like life-altering secrets. How, especially at that age, one song can seem to understand every complicated feeling and relationship you’re going through. And the tracks in the movie is a well curated bunch, only helps matters. Set in the ‘90s, the soundtrack is bursting with college radio staples -- Sonic Youth, New Order, The Smiths, Galaxie 500, The Innocence Mission -- but also allows that even then, a song like Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen” was a jam that everyone knew. And while some have quibbled that there’s no way a teenager wouldn’t know “Heroes” by David Bowie, every kid had a musical blind spot, no matter what they were listening to. So Bowie didn’t make it on the radar right away, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s not about who he is, but what the song captures in that moment that carries the most meaning.




This article is related to: Features, Best Of 2012, 2012: The Year In Review


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